By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
CORINTH – Dozens of Corinth and Alcorn County residents – black and white together – assembled Friday night to seek help for family members believed to be wrongly convicted and facing a lifetime in prison.
A crowd of about 60 gathered to tell their stories to Dr. LeRoy Gilliam, president of the Southeast Christian Association. SECA is a nonprofit human rights organization based in Houston, Texas, that is known around the nation for helping people who feel their civil rights have been violated.
“I want to hear from you tonight,” Gillam said. “This is about fixing your problems.”
Mostly mothers – of Jimmy Ratliff, Perry Mask, Rodarius Stewart, among others – told their sons’ stories of being set up and/or falsely accused by confidential informants, being threatened by law enforcement and having a loaded jury that prevented the defendant from getting a fair trial.
One who spoke at the meeting was a former Corinth police officer, Charles “Sonny” Barnett. He agreed with allegations made by people who said the system was stacked against anyone who was charged.
“Nothing’s changed but dates, times and places,” Barnett said.
However, the power of unity can overcome a rigged system, Gillam said.
Gillam immediately organized the group to activate a telephone rally to call Gov. Phil Bryant on June 22, and to have a two-day march in Corinth on July 27-28.
“Law enforcement officers take an oath to serve, defend and protect,” Gillam said. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean anything today. You must stand up for yourselves and not be afraid of these people.”